How to grow sweet potatoes in containers

There are 2 general forms of sweet potatoes, vegetable varieties which are bred for their edible roots and the varieties that are bred for their ornamental trailing vines. Actually both of them belong to the Ipomoea batata species, a tender perennial that are normally grown as an annual. The edible varieties and the ornamental varieties are easy to grow in pots.

Both the ornamental varieties and the edible varieties grow best in sunny conditions. If you want to actually grow the edible tubers, it will take about 90 to 170 days, though depending on the variety. In most parts of the country, the plant can be started indoors about 6 to twelve weeks before the area’s projected last frost date in the spring to have a long enough growing season. Actually sweet potatoes are widely available for sale as small container plants in the spring. Though, they are also very easy to grow yourself by sprouting “slips” from the pieces of the tubers.

Equipment and Materials Needed to Get Started

  • Toothpicks
  • Planting containers
  • Glass containers for each tuber
  • Water
  • Sweet potato tubers
  • Potting soil
  • Thin nail
  • Knife
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Shallow dish

The following are the steps on how to grow sweet potatoes in containers;

Step 1. Prepare the tubers: To get started you have to look for a firm sweet potato without any damaged spots. It is better if they have not been refrigerated. Use a very sharp knife to cut the tubers into pieces just slightly smaller than the opening on your glass container. Then, locate the middle of each tuber piece and then insert 3 or more toothpicks into it; they should go about ½ to one inch into the tuber. Space the toothpicks evenly around the circumference of the tuber. If the tuber is actually too hard, you can drive a small hole with a thin nail and then stick the toothpick into it very well.

Step 2. Position the tubers in water: Place each of the tubers so that the toothpicks rest on the edge of a jar with the pointed end of the tuber facing down. You have to fill the jar with enough water to cover the bottom half of the tuber. And then, put the jar on a sunny windowsill, and also change the water every couple of days. Make sure you keep the bottom of the tuber submerged in water. Actually it can take a few weeks or even a month before you see green growth sprouting from the top of the tuber. The individual shoots that sprout from the tuber are called “slips,” and these will be what you use to create new sweet potato plants.

Step 3. Separate the slips: Once the sweet potato tuber has sprouted and they have begun to produce leaves, you can carefully separate each slip from the tuber by gently twisting it. There might already be a rudimentary root structure that is attached to the slip that you should try not to disturb. Lay each of the slip in a shallow dish with the bottom of the stem submerged in water and the leaves hanging over the edge of the dish. The new roots will begin to grow from the bottom of the slip within a few days. When the new roots are about one inch long, you can plant the slips in potting soil. You can remove any slip that is wilting or that hasn’t produced any roots; they are no longer  viable.

Step 4. Plant the slips in pots: If you actually want to grow your sweet potato vines as decorative plants, find a small three or four inch seedling pot with good drainage. Once your plants have actually begun to grow robustly indoors, they will be ready to be transfer to large pots and to be mixed with other plants if you wish. If you are growing edible sweet potatoes you will actually need a large pot with drainage to allow adequate room for the tubers to grow. Or if you plan to plant the edible sweet potatoes in the ground, then the slips also can be started in seedling containers. To plant, fill a pot with high-quality potting soil until the soil reaches about one inch below the rim. Do not firmly compress the soil; the tubers actually need loose soil to grow large. You can mix a slow-release fertilizer into the potting soil if it doesn’t contain fertilizer already. Then, make a hole in the center of the soil, deep enough to cover the roots of the slip. Gently put 1 or 2 slips into the hole, and pat the soil firm around them. Make sure there are no air pockets near the roots. Water them thoroughly. Put your container in a sunny indoor spot, and also keep the soil moist but not soggy. To test moisture levels you can stick your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If the soil feels dry you can add water. If it’s moist at your fingertip you have to wait until it’s dry.

Step 5. Move the plants outdoors: Sweet potatoes actually like warm weather, you need to make sure all danger of frost has passed before you put the new plants outside. It is best if temperatures have consistently been at least sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit for several days. It also helps to harden off the new sweet potatoes plants by acclimating them gradually to the outdoors before putting them into their permanent locations.Furthermore, you can easily harvest your sweet potatoes at any stage, and they will be edible. Check your variety for the specific number of days it takes to fully matures. However the sweet potatoes should be harvested before the first frost in the fall for best edibility. To actually get the most flavors from your sweet potatoes and to extend their shelf life, cure them in a warm, dry place for about ten to fourteen days before eating.

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